10 Common Words You’re Probably Mispronouncing

There are two acceptable pronunciations for ‘kibosh.’ But “kih-BOSH” isn’t one of them.
Comptrol yourself!
Comptrol yourself! / Carol Yepes/Moment/Getty Images

Ever feel embarrassed when you don't know how to say a word? Don’t be. Even the most fluent English speakers stumble—and besides, pronunciations change over time. See if you’ve been mispronouncing these common words.


Pen names don’t always make things easier. Theodore Geisel’s college buddy Alexander Liang made a rhyme to teach you the right way to pronounce Dr. Seuss’s name:

“You’re wrong as the deuce
And you shouldn't rejoice
If you're calling him Seuss
He pronounces it ‘Soice.’”


Let’s put the kibosh—which should be pronounced “KY-bosh” or “ky-BOSH”—on saying this word “kuh-BOSH” or “kih-BOSH.”


This word sounds just like controller. If you’re tempted to pronounce that silent -mp-, please comptrol yourself!


Jayson Tatum palming a basketball in the middle of a game
Jayson Tatum in April 2024. / Jacob Kupferman/GettyImages

An initial hard “k” sound is the standard these days for the opening c of Celtic, according to Merriam-Webster, but the “s” version technically came first. If you’re talking about the Boston Celtics, though, stick with “SELL-tick.”


Maybe it’s because it’s one letter short of cachet. Maybe it’s just more fun to mispronounce. Whatever the case, cache should be said just like cash—the e is silent.


This word, meaning “deception by trickery,” is aptly tricky to pronounce. The ch- is pronounced “sh,” as in Chicago. The French pronounce the word “shih-connery,” but Americans tend to pronounce it “shih-CANE-er-ee.”


According to Merriam-Webster, there’s more than one way to pronounce this word. The three most commonly used options are “BAY-nul,” “buh-NAHL,” and “buh-NAL” (like canal).


pile of hundred- and fifty-dollar bills
Affluence. / Alan Schein Photography/The Image Bank/Getty Images

If pronouncing it “uh-FLOO-ent” is wrong, some people don’t want to be right. The stress on this word is supposed to be on the first syllable—“AFF-loo-ent.” But stressing the second syllable became so mainstream that dictionaries eventually validated the pronunciation.


OK, so maybe this word—which Merriam-Webster defines as “a petty officer on a merchant ship having charge of hull maintenance and related work”—is not that commonly used (unless you’re a fan of Below Deck). But now that you know it’s pronounced “BO-sun,” you might find more reasons to work it into conversation. Boatswain is one example of a misle.


When this word was borrowed from French in the 17th century, it was quickly anglicized to rhyme with itch. But in the 20th century, more people embraced a true French pronunciation and decided to pronounce it “NEESH.” These days, both are acceptable.

Try Your Hand at These Commonly Mispronounced Names:


A version of this piece ran in 2013; it has been updated for 2024.